History, Evolution, and The Darwin Debate

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Confusion over the term ‘samkhya’

January 1st, 2017 · No Comments

I can will understand how my exotic version of something I call ‘Samkhya’ could generate a double take, or mis-take (mistake). And I would be more than happy to refine the discussion with a more detailed version of the actual ‘yogic’ version of Samkhya embraced by real time Indic legacies…http://www.yogajournal.com/article/teach/yoga-and-samkhya-purifying-the-elements-of-the-human-being/
My usage will run afoul of the many others here.

Let me restate my point: as Shri Anirvan pointed out the legacy of Gurdjieff was pure Samkhya. Well, was it? It seems to spring from some sufi version of the subject. Bennett, a student of Ouspensky/Gurdjieff, produced a related treatment obviously intended to be a version of some kind of sufistic brand, one produced obscurely by Gurdjieff who always remystified and buried his claims. Neither man ever used the term Samkhya.
In a way then we should be wary of the term. Bennett’s version is so far ahead of everyone else (including I suspect the secretive Gurdjieff who probably didn’t understand much here) that it is almost a new subject. He may be spinning yarn but his approach is logically consistent and starts from scratch, so it is not required to square with classical Samkhya, a subject that suddenly seems like a decayed product of a great antiquity of ‘santana dharma’. Danielou, whose views are not necessarily reliable, but which correctly pointed to the legacy of primordial ‘shaivism’ as he called it, claimed that samkhya was part of the original mix that produced yoga/tantra and jainism. If so the connection with sufism is something later.

Table that for a moment. Now consider the history of Christian theology. The latter may show a connecting link. We see a clear almost parodist version of Samkhya suddenly appear in Christian theology: the whole curious set of trinitarian notions, as if someone had tried to appropriate a version of Samkhya in the process grafting this preposterously on ‘god’ concepts, something not present in atheist samkhya. We can see how the whole thing crystallized if we consider the use of triads in Samkhya: and the highest level cosmic triad is ambiguously the source or first manifestation and somehow this might actually what was meant by ‘god’. If you study christian theology here you suddenly get a sense of how some influence of samkhya generated ‘Aha!’ moments in early Christian theologians trying to create a theological understanding. To have taken an atheist subject and turned it into theology was a bit outrageous but I doubt if they knew any better or cared one way or the other. In any case this effort may have passed into Islamic/sufi worlds and gestated over the centuries. How a figure like Gurdjieff came upon this ‘samkhya’ is thus suggested but no proven. I am always wary of using Gurdjieff’s thinking unless it has a clear historical source. We almost have that here. In any case his work is so obscure we have no choice but to skip it. I don’t think Gurdjieff really understood his own subject. The Christian version of all this can hardly stand as anything better than grotesque. It is a curiouser and curiouser muddle that suddenly makes some sense once its historical key is understood.

Bennett’s version is a tour de force and clarifies some of the obscurities of the original: with a resemblance to the work of Schopenhauer, but without the noumenal/phenomenal distinction, the system of Bennett, in the triad of ‘being, function, will’ transfers the confused gunas (triads) to realm of ‘will’ and suddenly the whole subject starts to make sense. Elegant. So the cascade of gunas constitutes an involutionary ‘ray of creation’ that is matched with an evolutionary contrary process.
If we can share Bennett’s assumptions, a big if, we have a truly cogent, however flawed, version of what the original samkhya must have been. It could never however have made much sense until the rise of modern philosophy and science.
If we can make the question of triads coherent we have the key to resolving many confusions. But can we really produce a triadic logic? Is there really a ‘law of three forces’? I fear that even Bennett/Gurdjieff don’t quite understand their own assumptions. But Bennett does at least produce a ‘blank slots’ version of those triads that work on a provisional basis, given the rightness of not of other assumptions. Up in the air, then, but juggling at a high level. Bennett may have found the right way to go: abstract n-term systems, and the special case of three term systems. Armed with that, in any case, we have a key to a new kind of cosmology. I fear that it is still flawed and incomplete and nothing in modern science so far can explicate a distinction of involution and evolution, so the whole game could be a pipe dream. But non other than the humble materialist marxists have stumbled onto a version of (still dualistic) triadic thinking, so we see how the curious notion of triad is a natural rediscovery.

Anyway we can see how the use of the term ‘Samkhya’ can lead to miscommunication until we see the historical connection to Christianity, thence sufism, thence onto the modern version.

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